UPDATE: WV Supreme Court Impeachment Proceedings
Update to the update: following a recess, it was determined that the agreement for censure was out of order. Whether an agreement will ultimately come to fruition is unknown; for now, trials for Walker, Workman, Davis and Loughry are set for October and November.
The corruption and impeachment drama in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals regarding inappropriate spending had some interesting developments today, as the impeachment trial is set to begin. Word came at lunchtime that an agreement has apparently been reached between the House of Delegates and two of the justices, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker. ((The original version of this article erroneously stated that the deal was reached between the Senate and the two justices.))The two judges have purportedly agreed to be censured, but will keep their seats on the high court.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two justices keeping their seats, two who announced their retirement over the summer (Robin Davis and Menis Ketchum, the latter of whom pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud stemming from a federal investigation), and one justice, Allen Loughry, suspended, indicted by the feds, and still facing impeachment.
Democrats have criticized the en banc impeachment effort, calling it an attempted coup by Republicans to take over the Court. Their criticism seemed somewhat validated when the two vacated seats were filled on a temporary basis with Republican leadership- former state House speaker Tim Armistead and former US Representative Evan Jenkins- despite both retiring justices being Democrats. But those two seats will be on November’s ballot in a non-partisan race. Further, the two justices who will remain include one Democrat and one Republican.
Justice Loughry, who has refused to resign despite staring down a multi-count federal indictment, still faces impeachment at the time of publication. He is currently suspended, as is his law license, and his seat is being temporarily filled by a local circuit court judge. If Loughry is removed, Republican governor Jim Justice will fill his spot by appointment, with the seat not reaching the ballot again until 2020.
Here’s to hoping we are nearing the end of this twisted, sordid road, and to the return of some semblance of stability to West Virginia’s high court. Its integrity, however, is unlikely to recover for quite some time.